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CouchDB-compatible mobile database; Objective-C version

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by Jens Alfke (
with contributions from Alexander Edge, Chris Kau, Marty Schoch, Paul Mietz Egli
and technical advice from Damien Katz, Filipe Manana, J Chris Anderson

TouchDB is a lightweight CouchDB-compatible database engine suitable for embedding into mobile or desktop apps. Think of it this way: If CouchDB is MySQL, then TouchDB is SQLite.

By "CouchDB-compatible" I mean that it can replicate with CouchDB and Couchbase Server, and that its data model and high-level design are "Couch-like" enough to make it familiar to CouchDB/Couchbase developers. Its API will not be identical and it may not support some CouchDB features (like user accounts) that aren't useful in mobile apps. Its implementation is not based on CouchDB's (it's not even written in Erlang.) It does support replication to and from CouchDB.

By "suitable for embedding into mobile apps", I mean that it meets the following requirements:

  • Small code size; currently under 200kbytes. (Code size is important to mobile apps, which are often downloaded over cell networks.)
  • Quick startup time on relatively-slow CPUs; ideally 100ms or less.
  • Low memory usage with typical mobile data-sets. The expectation is the number of documents will not be huge, although there may be sizable multimedia attachments.
  • "Good enough" performance with these CPUs and data-sets.

And by "mobile apps" I'm focusing on iOS and Android, although there's no reason we couldn't extend this to other platforms like Windows Phone. And it's not limited to mobile OSs -- the Objective-C implementation runs on Mac OS as well.

More documentation is available on the wiki.


  • It's written in Objective-C.
  • Xcode 4.2+ is required to build it.
  • Runtime system requirements are iOS 5+, or Mac OS X 10.7.2+.

Looking for the Java/Android implementation? It has its own repository.


  • TouchDB itself is under the Apache License 2.0.
  • FMDB, by Gus Mueller, is under the MIT License.
  • Google Toolbox For Mac is under the Apache License 2.0.
  • CocoaHTTPServer, by Robbie Hanson, is under the BSD License.
  • MYUtilities (portions of which are copied into the vendor/MYUtilities directory) is under the BSD License. (But note that I, Jens, wrote MYUtilities and would have no problem re-licensing it under Apache for use here.)

Development Status

TouchDB recently went alpha (at the end of January 2012; version 0.45.)

Beta should arrive before spring.

Building TouchDB

For full details see the wiki page. The gist of it is:

  1. Clone the TouchDB repository to your local disk.
  2. In that directory run "git submodule init" and then "git submodule update". This will clone the FMDB, MYUtilities, and CocoaHTTPServer repos into the vendor/ subdirectory.
  3. Open the Xcode project and build the "Mac Framework" and/or "iOS Framework" schemes.
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